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November 28, 2011
Monday with Mike: It's championship week
For the first time in FBS history, more than half of the 11 leagues have conference title games.
Two occur Friday - the MAC's in Detroit and the Pac-12's first in Eugene, Ore. - and the other four are scheduled for Saturday - the ACC's in Charlotte, the Big Ten's first in Indianapolis, Conference USA's in Houston and the SEC's in Atlanta.
Here's a quick look at each, listed alphabetically.
Worth noting is that while the Big 12 doesn't have a true conference title game, Oklahoma's game at Oklahoma State basically will serve as a de facto championship contest. The winner gets a BCS bid, and Oklahoma State - but not the Sooners - could snag a BCS at-large bid if it loses.
The Big East race has come down to Louisville (whose season is over), Cincinnati and West Virginia. WVU finishes the regular season Thursday at USF, while Cincy finishes Saturday at home against Connecticut. If WVU loses Thursday, Cincinnati (8-3) gets the Big East's automatic bid as long as it beats UConn. If WVU (8-3) wins and Cincinnati loses, Louisville (7-5) gets the bid. If WVU and Cincy lose, Louisville gets the bid. If WVU and Cincinnati win, the tiebreaker is such that the bid would go to the team that is the highest-placed in the final BCS standings, which likely would be WVU.
Coaching carousel begins to spin
Illinois jettisoning Ron Zook and UAB doing the same to Neil Callaway are understandable coaching moves. Likely moves by UCLA with Rick Neuheisel and Arizona State with Dennis Erickson also make sense.
Those coaches have been in those jobs for a while, and they aren't getting things done - at least not to the extent expected.
But Akron and Memphis getting rid of second-year coaches? Are you serious? Akron and Memphis?
Those are bottom-rung programs in their respective leagues, and to expect a quick turnaround is ludicrous. There's a reason Akron hired Rob Ianello and Memphis hired Larry Porter: Both are good recruiters, and both were taking over programs with an alarming lack of good players. (Hey, if those programs had good players, the former coaches wouldn't have been fired.) You cannot turn around talent-shy programs in two years, especially considering that the first recruiting class for each was put together in about a month.
(Another thing that should make prospective coaches pause when considering Akron: Ianello was fired by phone - and reportedly while on the way to his mother's funeral in New York.)
Another coach who seems likely to lose his job is Washington State's Paul Wulff. If he, Erickson and Neuheisel join Arizona's Mike Stoops on the unemployment line, half of the Pac-12's teams next season will have coaches in their first or second years on the job and nine of the league's coaches will have been on the job for four or fewer seasons.
Wisconsin TB Montee Ball scored four TDs as the Badgers bludgeoned Penn State 45-7; Penn State had allowed just nine rushing TDs all season before Saturday. Ball has 34 touchdowns this season, which is second on the NCAA's single-season list, behind only former Oklahoma State TB Barry Sanders' 39 in 1988. Ball, a junior, conceivably could pass Sanders; he has scored at least two touchdowns in each game this season and has five games with at least three scores. The Badgers have two games left.
There were four ACC-SEC matchups over the weekend - three traditional season-ending in-state rivalries (Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State and Georgia-Georgia Tech) plus Vanderbilt-Wake Forest. The SEC went 3-1, with FSU the only ACC winner. The SEC defenses did a great job clamping down on the ACC offenses. The four ACC teams managed a combined 932 yards of offense, or 233 yards per game. That quartet of ACC teams averages a combined 412.3 yards per game. Georgia Tech was held a bit more than 100 yards under its average, Clemson almost 290, Florida State almost 280 and Wake almost 50.
USC WRs Marqise Lee, a true freshman, and Robert Woods, a sophomore, combined to make 184 receptions for 2,435 yards and 26 TDs this season. Woods had seven 100-yard games and six games with at least two TD catches; Lee had four 100-yard games and two games with multiple-TD receptions. You think they will be in the ear of QB Matt Barkley, imploring him to stay one more season? Lee and Woods are used to working well with each other, as both attended Gardena (Calif.) Serra.
Among the usual suspects not going bowling this season: Boston College (streak of 12 bowls in a row is snapped), East Carolina (five bowls in a row), Navy (eight bowls in a row), Tennessee (just the fourth time in 30 seasons that Vols are bowl-less) and Texas Tech (11 bowls in a row).
Fresno State lost for the first time ever this season to New Mexico State. Saturday, Fresno State lost for just the second time in the past 18 meetings to San Jose State to finish 4-8. It's just the third losing record in coach Pat Hill's 15-season tenure, and the Bulldogs have won at least eight games eight times in the past 11 seasons. Still, rumors continue to swirl about his days being numbered in Fresno. He could serve as the poster boy for using jobs such as Fresno as springboards. Why didn't he get out while he could?
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt announced Nov. 7 that he would be "resigning" at the end of the season. Ole Miss was 2-7 at the time. The Rebels finished 2-10 - the first 10-loss season in school history - and were outscored 111-13 in their final three games.
Rutgers was in the mix for the Big East title until it was throttled 40-22 by Connecticut on Saturday. How in the world do you give up 40 points to UConn, whose previous season-high was 35 against Fordham on Sept. 3?
Miami announced it had given Al Golden a four-year contract extension, through the 2019 season. The announcement came during UM's loss to Boston College on Friday - a loss that dropped the Hurricanes to 6-6 one season after they finished 7-5. "We're going to flush it and move on and build a program," Golden told reporters about this season.
Auburn finished the regular season 7-5. In the BCS era, which started in the 1998 season, the defending champ with the most losses in the following season has been the 2008 LSU team, which went 8-5 with a bowl win after winning the title in '07.
Former Georgia play-by-play man Larry Munson died last Sunday night; he had turned 89 in September. As we wrote in September, go to larrymunson.com and revel in his greatness, hobnailed boot and broken furniture and all.
Fox is televising the Pac-12 title game Friday night and the Big Ten title game Saturday night. The network will use the same crew for each game: Gus Johnson on play-by-play and Charles Davis as the analyst.
North Texas senior TB Lance Dunbar needs 89 rushing yards in his final college game Saturday against Middle Tennessee to become only the sixth player in NCAA history to have 4,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards. The others: Stanford's Darrin Nelson (1978-81), Colorado State's Steve Bartalo (1983-86), Miami of Ohio's George Swarn (1983-86), Boise State's Brock Forsey (1999-2002) and Tulane's Mewelde Moore (2000-03).
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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